If It’s Not Prostitution, Take the Money out of It

MH900448636 I knew when I posted The New Prostitution: Surrogate Pregnancy that I would get a flurry of indignant responses and lies from people who buy and sell women’s bodies in this new, medical form of prostitution.

I’ve been to this particular rodeo before. What I encountered then and now is what people who stand up for the human rights of women always encounter: Lying attacks from their exploiters, self-destructive defenses of their own dehumanization by self-hating women, and stories of the “benefits” of the prostitution from their purchasers.

Just for the record, I don’t put pimps’ testimony on this blog. That includes pimp husbands who take money from their wives selling their bodies to medical science and doctors who buy and sell women’s bodies. I also don’t put johns’ excuses for their behavior on this blog. You’re wasting your time, trying to comment here.

My experience with this began when I went through infertility treatment to have my first child. I know a lot of about these drugs they give people. I know about their side effects and how they make you feel. I do not have first-hand knowledge of the irresponsible medical practice of egg harvesting.

My doctor was treating me for a diagnosed medical condition. The dangers and miseries I endured were part of a legitimate treatment for a bodily disfunction. She never over-stimulated my ovaries to try to make as many eggs as she could. She also never lied to me about the risks. She told me everything before we ever started, including the fact that the treatment could kill me.

The doctors who perform egg harvesting in Oklahoma lie about the risks. I know they lie because when I introduced a bill to stop them from paying women to undergo egg harvesting, they lied to other legislators and to the press. One of them said that egg harvesting was no more dangerous than riding in a car, among other flat-out lies.

They also claimed that they had not ever had a single complication. Another lie. One of these docs was part of the infertility clinic I went to. He wasn’t my doctor, but I knew him. While I was undergoing treatment, one of his patients lost an ovary. Call me crazy, but I think that qualifies as a complication.

These doctors are misrepresenting the risks and exploiting young women, endangering their lives, future health and fertility. They are reducing women and children to things to be bought and sold on the marketplace. They are also turning medical practice into an exploitative and dangerous profession that people cannot trust. 

If doctors can subject people to dangerous treatments that the patients have no medical need of in order to make money, if they can lie about the risks and use their professional associations’ political clout to create an environment that allows them to do this with impunity, then how can anyone ever trust their doctor?

We rely on these medical people to tell us the truth. We rely on them to give us treatments that we need because we are sick and need those treatments to get well. We rely on them not to inflict unnecessary medical treatments on us to make money.

These doctors are preying on women. They are buying and selling babies. All the lies in the world won’t change that.

There is one simple solution. Take the money out of the equation. If a woman wants to undergo a surrogate pregnancy for someone out of the goodness of her heart and she knows the risks and freely undertakes them, ok. But do not allow anyone to pay her to do this.  The same should go for egg harvesting. 

There is a reason we have laws that do not allow people to sell their bodily organs. The same laws should to apply to egg donation and surrogate pregnancies.

What I want to do is,

TAKE THIS:

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AND THIS

  • First-time surrogates receive a base payment of $23,000, paid in installments throughout the pregnancy.
  • Additional payments total $4,000 or more, which increases the total compensation to $27,000. These payments include money for maternity clothes, payment for completing the embryo transfer, and a monthly expense allowance beginning when the surrogate signs the contract with the intended parents.
  • Surrogates who carry twins receive an additional $5,000, raising their total to at least $32,000.
  • Women who become surrogates a second time have their base payment increase to $28,000. This means they receive at least $32,000 total, or $37,000 if they carry twins. (see here.)

AND THIS

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OUT OF THE EQUATION. 

Give women and children their human dignity under the law. 

Otherwise, stop lying and call it what it is: The new prostitution.

The story below comes from a young doctor. She gave me permission to use her testimony when I was working to pass a bill to make it illegal to pay for egg harvesting in Oklahoma. I never used it, even though she gave me permission. She was still a student and afraid of what public use might do to her medical career. I didn’t think she understood how vicious and slandering these people really are, and I did not want to harm her in any way. I left her out of that fight.

However, she is in a different place in her career now.  She has offered her story as testimony to the Kansas State Senate and it is published at the Eggsploitation web site.

I reprint it here with permission. From Eggsploitation:

 

Sindy’s Testimony

Testimony by Sindy, M.D., Ph.D. to Kansas State Senate on Senate Bill 509, “Women’s Health and Embryo Monitoring Program Act,” March 2010

My name is Sindy. I have an M.D. and a Ph.D. in Biology with specialization in the field of real-time live imaging of the early immune response. With my strong background in basic science research and publications in top scientific journals such as Nature and Science, I have always been an avid supporter of biological research using live subjects and donated tissue, both animal and human. However, my experiences have taught me that at times, even a scrupulous medical scientist may be tempted to make erroneous assumptions, cut corners, or risk safety in order to save time or achieve success. In my medical and research training I have learned the importance of certain principles whenever attempting a procedure or study. These include: 1) ethics, 2) subject safety, 3) informed consent, and 4) patient autonomy. I am testifying today as a former egg donor on the dangers posed to women by the egg harvesting industry. I believe that all four of the above key principles had been violated in my case. Even though I suffered immediate life-threatening complications from the process, it wasn’t until many more years of medical training that I was able to understand the full scope of how I had been taken advantage of, mislead, and abandoned by the egg harvesting industry. As a medical professional it is still difficult to accept that such abuses are allowed to exist in my profession. Meanwhile, players “behind the scenes” such as the egg donation agency and the egg brokers have left the issues of ethics, health, and safety to the doctors, so that they can concentrate on profit. It is my assessment that the egg donation industry cannot be allowed to continue without regulations aimed at preventing unethical recruitment, substandard practices, and inadequate monitoring of women for the purpose of egg harvesting.

The goal of my testimony is to illuminate the importance of placing regulations on the way that the egg harvesting industry is run — from ethical, legal, and medical standpoints. 1) The health and safety of women must be protected first and foremost in any procedure related to ovum production, and should never be superseded by concerns of profit, costs of screening and monitoring the subject, quantity of eggs produced, quantity of eggs retrieved, or completion of the cycle. 2) Furthermore, like any other industry, the egg harvesting industry must be held accountable for reporting adverse effects and for tracking the long-term health of donors. 3) Ethically, informed consent must be properly obtained, with an admission that more research is needed to illuminate the long-term risks to donors. It is also an ethical responsibility for those who profit from egg harvesting to track the health of donors, including conducting large scale research in order to study risks.

I will now relate my experience. In 2001, while still in the combined MD/PhD program, I signed up for egg donation after seeing a university newspaper advertisement for egg donors. The monetary compensation of $6,500 seemed like a lot to me at the time, as I made barely enough to live on. Though I had a desire to help an infertile couple, money was definitely a major driving factor in my decision. Before I started, I searched the medical literature with a fine-tooth comb to verify that this procedure was indeed as harmless as advertised by the egg donation agency. I did not find any hard evidence in the literature of future infertility and cancers, and it seemed that the risks of other complications were extremely low. However, I was not told that the egg donors were rarely followed after the donation, and that doctors were under no obligation to report adverse events.1 Like many other women egg donors, I was bound by legal contracts to remain anonymous and therefore even if late complications occurred, they would be difficult to report.

At this point I had a normal gynecologic history, including normal age at first menses, regular menstrual cycles, and nothing significant on pelvic ultrasounds. It was assumed that I was healthy enough to undergo the egg harvesting protocol. Then I submitted my photographs, passed my genetic screening as a “quality assurance” for the tissue purchaser, and submitted myself to a psychological screen and IQ test administered by a psychiatrist. Based on these results I was chosen as the egg donor, from whom a “designer offspring” would be created.

The legal contract stated that the creation of these eggs were for the purpose of in vitro fertilization. The recipients of my eggs would retain all rights to my eggs and any subsequent embryos created from my eggs, “including but not limited to the ability to make all decisions regarding disposition of embryos.” The literature given by the egg donation agency outlined the possible risks of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), as well as some other theoretical risks that they assured me were rare. What I did not realize at this time was that there were other hidden players in the egg industry who could potentially make money off my eggs, and that there were no laws in place to discourage hyperstimulation of many more eggs than reasonably needed for the goal of helping the infertile couple. My contract did not guarantee that third parties would not be involved in the trading or selling of these eggs, though it specifically forbade donations to other infertile couples without the donor’s consent. My eggs could have been a high-value commodity for profiteers who had nothing to do with the infertile couple, and I was not made aware of this possibility in a forthcoming and direct manner.

The below was part of the information provided to the public by the egg donation agency:

Q: How many eggs are removed during the retrieval? A: The average is 10-15 eggs aspirated per cycle, but donors can produce 16 or more eggs.

Q: Can a donor not produce enough eggs in a stimulated cycle? A: Yes, if the doctor cancels the cycle for poor response the donor will be compensated between $650.00 — $750.00.

According to my agency, failure to produce more than 4 eggs qualifies as “not enough eggs”. Four is typically higher than the target for women who are receiving fertility treatment using oral medications. However, note that there is no upper limit for the number of eggs a donor may safely “produce”, indicating that safety of ovum overproduction is being ignored. This illustrates that the drive to produce a higher number of eggs is extremely high, and failure to produce “adequate” eggs is linked with reduced financial compensation for the donor. Needless to say, this concept of “more is better” brings up ethical questions concerning the use of financial compensation for the recruitment of egg donors. This is especially alarming when no standards are in place to prevent an agency from overproducing eggs. The agency also told me that if I had a successful donation and become a proven donor, I may receive more compensation for future cycles, upwards of $8,000 (on paper) to $20,000 (verbally) – more than I would make in a year of intensive lab work. When “successful” production cycles are linked to increased financial compensation and “failures” are linked to a decrease in financial compensation, women will become more likely to tolerate untoward side effects, including those of OHSS, for fear of losing this compensation. This payment structure poses an obvious ethical conflict.

After signing my legal contract I began to administer all the medications as directed by the egg donation agency. These medications arrived by mail. I already knew how to mix and administer the medications but I don’t recall being instructed by medical personnel. At no point did they adjust my dosage. I remember receiving follow-up early on with a local doctor, and more exams after I travelled by plane to Northern California for the harvesting. Imagine my surprise when they told me that I was producing approximately 60 egg follicles! A mature follicle measures ~2 cm in diameter. The normal ovary measures approximately 4 x 2.5 x 1 cm, and is analogous to the testes. Therefore, you can imagine how 30 mature follicles of 2 cm diameter clustered within each gonad must look like and feel. I was concerned, but the doctors and nurses assured me that this was within the reasonable range for a fertile young woman.

A couple of days before the retrieval the nurse emailed me that my blood estrogen (estradiol) levels came back much higher than they had anticipated (~10,000 pg/ml). A woman in her 20s has an average estrogen level of ~150 pg/ml, with a peak of ~400 pg/ml prior to ovulation. In late pregnancy, the levels may rise 100-fold, but this rise normally occurs over a 6 month period. I asked the fertility specialist to consider altering the timing and course of this process. I was concerned because the drugs I received were probably tested on Caucasian women of average weight. I am a thin non-Caucasian woman. Studies have shown genetic differences in liver drug metabolism for ethnic populations; the examples are too many to reference and are beyond the scope of this topic. Despite my concerns, the doctor told me that even though my hormone levels were extremely high, they would not make any adjustments to the protocol because they did not want to risk failure. I continued to follow all their directions, as it stipulated in my legal contract that I “[understood] it [was] imperative” that I “not deviate from [the protocol] unless instructed to do so by the IVF physician.” Therefore, I proceeded to finish my ovarian stimulation, finishing off with a shot of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) to help release the eggs for the harvesting. The next morning, I underwent transvaginal needle retrieval of the eggs.

What was unknown after the surgery was that the doctor had punctured an artery during the harvesting. When I woke from the anesthesia I became weak, nauseous, and dizzy. I was scheduled to catch a plane that afternoon, to return home. They told me that I looked good and was ready to go home, even though I had problems maintaining my blood pressure. At this point I refused to leave, because I could not stand without getting dizzy – orthostatic hypotension after an invasive procedure typically raises the suspicion of blood loss. A few hours later they started giving me intravenous fluids because they thought that the anesthesia was causing my low blood pressure. Then I developed pain and difficulty breathing. An ultrasound showed that everything was fine except for fluid in my pelvis, which they said was normal (later, this was documented as “fluid pocket near the right kidney”. During this entire time the doctor and nurse persisted in trying to get me to leave, which would mean hours of traveling by car and plane. The pain in my belly became unbearable and I became convinced that I was bleeding internally; something was irritating and pushing on my diaphragm. When I asked if I could be bleeding internally, they told me that it was unlikely. My blood pressure was even lower at this time, so they gave me medication to raise it. Unfortunately giving pressors in a bleeding patient increases the bleeding rate. At 6pm, after 8 hours of slowly and painfully bleeding out, they FINALLY admitted me to the hospital. To me it seemed like they had done just about everything to get rid of me up until that point. The fertility doctor ordered me to eat something. As soon as I sat up in bed to eat, I developed sudden distress and difficulty breathing. They took my blood pressure and called out “40/20″. At that moment I feared that I was going to die. In my medical records the blood pressure reported was 61/29. At this point they finally began to realize that something was terribly wrong, that I was going into shock from blood loss, so I was taken into the operating room for an emergency exploratory laparotomy to find the source of bleeding. The surgeons flipped through my bowels three times to ensure that no other organs were punctured.

During the harvesting of ~60 eggs, which I assume required 60 passes of the needle through my ovaries, the fertility doctor had punctured a high pressure artery in my right ovary. This tiny bleeder was easily fixed with a touch of electrocautery. I had an emergency blood transfusion to replace the 1.5 liters of blood lost. There is absolutely no reason why they should have waited so long to properly diagnose me, thus turning this into an emergency surgical situation when they could have done a small laparoscopic procedure to diagnose and fix a small bleeding artery. Had I followed their directions and gone home, I would have died. Unfortunately their disregard of the signs of OHSS, low index of clinical suspicion for post surgical complications, and their extremely slow response resulted in a horrific clinical outcome.

After the surgery, I had to be kept on a breathing machine in the intensive care unit (ICU) and treated for acidosis throughout the next day. After I was stabilized enough to move to the regular medical wards, the fertility doctor came to see me. She told me that the bleeding was probably due to a genetic bleeding disorder (i.e. my own fault) and that this has never happened before. Then she proceeded to check me for rare genetic bleeding disorders – nothing. I found the doctor’s reluctance to accept that a simple, clear-cut complication had occurred to be highly disturbing. A few days after I was admitted, the 9/11 attack occurred and all planes were grounded for a week. Despite not being able to walk or tolerate a 10 hour car ride home, the doctor told me I needed to free up medical resources and go home now. She tried to get me to leave by stating that when she had her C-section it only took her 3 days to start walking again. However, she neglected the fact that I had gone into prolonged shock caused by her own negligence, spent time in the ICU, underwent a massive surgical procedure, and had emergency blood transfusions. There were no apologies from beginning to end. I was shocked by this dismissive attitude from a top doctor of a top fertility treatment center, a medical expert who has published many articles on safety evaluation and recommendations for egg harvesting. At the same time, I was afraid to launch any complaints because I was a student in the same hospital system with plans to pursue the same field – Ob/Gyn; years later I decided on another medical specialty for unrelated reasons.

I am thankful to be alive, but I know that it was not because the doctor caught the post surgical complication. It was because I finally took a stand, and refused to go home when I knew that something was wrong. If I had died I would not be here to tell my story. I fear that cases like mine are buried deep by the fertility centers who do not want to lower their reputation. While I was in the hospital the fertility doctor told me that she would write a case report on the complication I had. When I searched the medical literature for all of her publications some years later, I wasn’t surprised to find that there was no such report. I have no way of knowing if this incident even made it into a statistical analysis somewhere in the medical literature. It makes sense that an industry thriving on profits and reputation has little incentive to report adverse events, for fear of driving away potential IVF clients and egg donors.

The $6,500 I was given has long since evaporated into medical treatments for multiple late complications caused by this incident. I developed an infection inside my incision site and required multiple steroid injections into the scar to stop it from growing out of control. I suffered from post traumatic stress for months because of my near-death incident, and was unable to work for two months due to both physical and mental deterioration. When I came off birth control a few years later I discovered that my previously normal menstrual cycles and hormone levels had become irregular. My previously normal ovaries took on a polycystic appearance, with more than 25 small follicles in each ovary. I developed occasional incontinence and pelvic pain likely as a consequence of the emergency surgery causing adhesions (fibrotic bands, analogous to scarring) around my organs.

The worst part of this is my current struggle with infertility, requiring continued exposure to the very same types of fertility drugs that I had already been overexposed to in the past – exposure whose link to cancer has not been adequately studied and may take decades to emerge.1 I may need more surgeries in the future to determine if the emergency surgery that was done had damaged my reproductive organs. I fear that the procedure may have harmed the quality of my eggs, even if the fertility experts are certain (at least theoretically) that quantity of eggs remains unaffected. Because of the high hormonal exposure during my egg donation cycle and multiple anecdotes from other egg donors, the development of early cancer is always in the back of my mind. Though a large study has found no evidence linking IVF to ovarian cancer, there is a generalized, undeniable causal relationship between transient exposure to female hormones and transient risk of rapid-growth gynecologic cancer.2 I believe that is absolutely necessary for egg donors to be followed and studied, especially if they had experienced hyperstimulation during the process. No follow up has ever been offered to me. Nobody from the egg donation agency, fertility clinics, or hospital has contacted me since, except to obtain my insurance information so that they could pass my hospital bill to my own health insurance company.

Summary and Conclusion:

1) Ethical considerations:

Financial compensation for eggs disproportionately targets college women with financial hardships. These women usually have long academic careers ahead of them and have not considered childbearing yet, so any infertility caused by the procedure would cause more psychological and physical damage to these women. Docked pay for failure to produce a target number of eggs and escalating pay scales for subsequent cycles are factors that may encourage underreporting of adverse side effects by the egg donor.

2) Subject safety:

Subject safety is variable, being highly dependent on the individual clinician’s practice. This is why there needs to be standardized safety practices and mandatory reporting of complications. In the article “Assessing the Medical Risks of Human Oocyte Donation for Stem Cell Research: Workshop Report (2007)”, one fertility expert advocated the following:3

By working from such information as a patient’s age, weight, and follicle count… a doctor can begin with an FSH dose based on those factors and then modify it as necessary. We monitor during the course of the stimulation to further decrease the dose if too many follicles are developing or the estradiol levels are too high.

To reduce risk of hyperstimulation, these actions were also recommended:

  • •Modify stimulation protocol
    • ◦Decrease gonadotropin dosage
    • ◦OCP/Lupron/Low dose gonadotropins
  • •Reduce the ovulatory dose of hCG
  • •Delay administration of hCG: “Coast”
  • •Cancellation of cycle eliminates the risk of OHSS
  • •Withhold hCG administration

Basically the safety recommendations for egg donors include determining the initial dosing of these powerful drugs on the weight and age of the patient. If there is any evidence of producing more eggs or hormones than expected during routine monitoring, then the drug dosage should be reduced, the administration of stimulating medications delayed, or the cycle cancelled. None of these recommendations were followed in my case. In fact, it was one of my own egg donation doctors who was consulted and quoted in the above article.

Regarding the risk during surgical retrieval of the eggs, the perceived negligible risk of complications is likely due to incomplete data:2

It is difficult to know, however, exactly how often such complications occur . . . Although excellent statistics are kept on such things as how many viable eggs each procedure produces, the statistics are not so complete on the complications that ensue during and after.

As my case illustrates, this perceived near-zero risk is inherently dangerous because it will not raise red flags when complications do occur, resulting in delayed intervention and a poorer-than-expected outcome. When a complication does occur, the denial of medical responsibility based on statistical rarity is a faulty and circular argument. This denial of responsibility would also prevent egg donors from obtaining monetary compensation for treatment of complications and appropriate follow-up. As my case illustrates, poor management of retrieval complications can be a problem even in the hands of the most experienced clinician.

Lastly, I received no follow up after my procedure. It is the ethical duty of the fertility industry to conduct timely follow-up and research studies in order to promote safety. This is true of any other industry especially pharmaceutical – so why make fertility an exception?

3) Informed consent:

Many are improperly informed about the risks of the egg harvesting process. Verbally I was told that risk was virtually non-existent and that studies have not linked the procedure to cancer and infertility. I should have been told that there were not enough studies or long-term follow up to determine risk.

It should be made abundantly clear if embryos or stem cells may potentially be secondarily sold, traded, or gifted. The amount of profit potentially generated from each transaction and the purpose of each transaction should be transparent to everyone involved, especially the donor. Without this information, the egg donor cannot possibly make an informed decision.

4) Patient autonomy:

I was hyperstimulated with approximately 60 eggs retrieved. During the procedure I expressed concerns about not using weight-based dosing of fertility medication, the excessive number of follicles produced, and skyrocketing estradiol levels. Nothing was done to personalize my procedure based on clinical findings, which is clearly incongruent with the standard of care. After the procedure my concerns about internal bleeding were not adequately acknowledged until I went into shock and had to undergo an emergency laparotomy. In my experience, the pressure to complete a successful cycle became stronger as I became more invested in the process, and thus I progressively lost my right to make decisions regarding my own body.

Final thoughts:

Even the tiniest risk of complication needs to be taken seriously especially when dealing with perfectly healthy young women, who have no need to undergo a potentially life-threatening procedure. Procedures with risk are performed on sick patients with the understanding is that the benefits of the procedure outweigh the risks or the consequences of doing nothing. In egg donation there is no medical benefit, only risk. It represents a conflict of interest when the physician does not perceive the egg donor as a patient for whom they have the responsibility to minimize risk. This aspect must be considered when treating healthy young women with everything to lose.

References:

1. Nature. 2006 Sep 7;443(7107):26. Health effects of egg donation may take decades to emerge.

2. American Journal of Epidemiology Vol. 153, No. 11 : 1079-1084.

3. Assessing the Medical Risks of Human Oocyte Donation for Stem Cell Research: Workshop Report (2007).

Thursday Prayer for Priests

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Margaret Rose Realy, who blogs at Morning Rose Prayer Garden, is one of those people who always touches the soft part of your heart.

Her blog is a gift, especially on the days when you need that warm and loving contact with a really good person.

Margaret Rose posts a prayer for priests every Thursday. It’s a wonderful idea, which we should all follow in our own way. Priests need prayer. As things get worse for Christians, we are going to need strong shepherds who will not run away or cow-tow in the face of pressures to deny Christ in one way or another.

We need them. They need us. We all need Jesus.

Here is Margaret Rose’s prayer. You can find other wonderful posts here, at her blog.

Divine Savior Jesus Christ, who has entrusted the whole work of your redemption, the welfare and  salvation of the world, to priests as your representatives, through the  hands of your most holy Mother and for the sanctification of your  priests and candidates for the priesthood, I offer you this present day  wholly and entirely, with all its prayers, works, joys, sacrifices and  sorrows.  Give us truly holy priests who, inflamed with the fire of your divine love, seek nothing but your greater glory and the salvation of  our souls.  And you, Mary, good Mother of priests, protect all priests  in danger of their holy vocation and, with the loving hand of a mother, also lead back to the Good Shepherd those poor priests who have become unfaithful to their exalted vocation and have gone astray.  Amen.

Pope Francis Calls for Christian Unity During General Audience

“We Catholics should pray together,” Pope Francis said in his Wednesday audience, “but we should also pray together with other Christians.”

This is a message every Christian should take to heart. We don’t have to give up our doctrinal differences to know that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and Life. The most important thing is that we put Him at the center. When we do that, the differences we think are so important fade into the background where they belong.

We live in a world that is increasingly hostile to Christians. That makes it all the more important for Christians to support and stand by one another.

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The Land of Opportunity and Our Three-Tier Public Education System

Public education is a three tier system. 

The top tier of public education provides a top-flight education that feeds its students royal jelly. Kids from these schools are expected to go on to the top tier universities.

Diplomas from top tier universities are tickets to entry into a distant ruling class that sends other Americans’ children to wars it doesn’t fight, passes laws that destroy other people’s lives and creates social mores that undercut the institutions by which their “lessors” create community. 

Board meeting room

How many members of powerful boards went to the same schools?

The middle tier of public education provides a so-so, mid-level state university education to suburban students. They are slotted for workman type jobs that will provide a comfortable life for them, but will not allow them access to the decision-making levers of our society.

Middle tier public education inculcates the social mores of those who inhabit the top tier, encouraging the students to drink a bit of social arsenic along with their education. If they drink too deeply, their children will inevitably end up in the bottom tier.

Occasionally, a student from one of these schools will, by dent of massive work and high intelligence, hit a bell-ringing test score that gives them the option of attending a ticket-punching top tier university. However, since these students don’t usually fit the “profile” of politically-correct desirability, they are often blocked at this juncture by money, including the money for clothes, entertainment, meals and all the rest of what it takes to fit in at a top tier university.

Added to that is the fact that they are from a different social strata with different mores and beliefs, and you have a recipe for misery if they do accept the call to a top tier school. Everything they are, including the people know and love is, lies outside the world they will enter. The choice is painful. Turn down the offer and stay on the lower tiers of society, or accept it and condemn yourself to a chameleon life. 

Prison

How many kids from bottom tier schools end up in prison?

The bottom tier of public education is designed for what people seem to love to call “throw-away kids.” The schools themselves are throw-away schools. They are usually ugly, institutional-looking edifices that make one think of a prison. They are also usually over-crowded, with huge class sizes, as well as dirty and in need of paint and repairs.

Students at these schools usually encounter two kinds of teachers: Incredibly dedicated teachers with a mission, and the failures of the educational system who were parked here to serve out their time until retirement. 

I’ve known teachers from bottom tier public schools who care deeply and passionately about the students they teach. On the other hand, I’ve known teachers in these schools who have contempt for their students, the students’ parents and the whole school. They can’t understand what someone as wonderful as them is doing here in this slum.

A student who gets a series of the missionary teachers has a chance at life. But a child who goes through a long string of the bitter bad ones is pretty much doomed. Unlike in other schools, it’s all in the luck of the draw. 

Supplies 0007

How many families from bottom tier schools can afford to buy school supplies?

Students in bottom tier schools don’t have enough textbooks. They also do not have the money to buy supplies, or lunches or even to dress well for school. 

Every destructive social experiment you can imagine is dumped on these kids. Their families are systematically shut out of the process. Educational professionals will deny this, but I have seen first-hand the dismissive, insulting way that parents are ignored and patronized in these schools. 

Children who attend top tier schools are being groomed to rule. Children who attend middle tier schools are being groomed to work. But those in the bottom tier are being groomed to fall through the cracks and die young. These bottom tier schools are the places where we recruit our soldiers to use as cannon fodder in unnecessary wars that are being fought to enhance the bottom line of those at the top.

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How many graduates of top tier schools fight and die in our endless wars?

Those who graduate from top tier universities populate the board rooms, the senate offices, sound stages and courtrooms where decisions are made. Most of them have never had meaningful contact with people from the bottom tier in their entire lives. They create wars, sell them through their media, and then send other people’s children to fight and die in them. 

I have sat in a roomful of a young people and listened while an army recruiter said to them: It would be better for you to go to Iraq and die a death with honor, than to stay here and die on the streets for no reason.

I am here to tell you that this statement resonated with those young people. In its own way, it resonated with me, too. Is this the new recruiting slogan? Is it the new way America fights its wars, by offering up young people from the lower tiers as living sacrifices to the “way of life” of those in the upper tier?

Public education was once an opportunity. But in our brave new world it has become a gatekeeper. 

Student Loans: Is it Really All about the Interest?

US Congress seal

Congress is once again fussing and fuming over how to use another festering problem that faces the American people as a club to beat one another with in partisan rumbles.

This time, it’s the ridiculous cost of higher education, specifically the cost of  student loans.

The amount that people owe in student loans has doubled in the past five years. Those were the same five years when jobs vanished, wages for the jobs that were still around stayed flat or dropped and the net worth of families decreased due to the falling housing market. They were also the same years that saw gasoline go up and up and up along with the cost of everything from a gallon of milk to a new pair of jeans.

Students loans2

Students can no longer graduate from college and look forward to landing a job that will allow them to pay their student loans. As anyone who’s ever had one can attest, owing on student loans is only slightly preferable to owing the Sicilian Mafia. They won’t break your legs if you can’t pay your student loans, but they will break your financial back.

Every time you have to put payments back, the loans pile up penalties and interest. This increases the amount you owe in a geometric progression, piling debt on debt until there is no way anyone earning one of today’s salaries and living with today’s cost of living can pay off the loans in a normal lifespan.

Student loans can force young people to delay marriage, put off starting a family and forgo buying their own home. On the other end of life, student loans force at least some people to delay or even give up retirement. I personally know an individual who is well past retirement age, but can’t stop working because of payments on student loans.

Students loans were a great idea when they were first implemented. The plan was to open the doorway to higher education to young people who wouldn’t otherwise have the money to go. The loans made a lot of sense when tuition for a state university cost $12 or $15 per hour, text books could be had for less than $50 and good jobs at a living wage were plentiful. They were an extension of the American dream based on the kind of earnings that went with the almost unfathomable industrial might this country possessed.

Unfortunately, we’ve exported our industrial base and our government is now in the process of squeezing the last bit of financial reserve out of the population by making them pay for unnecessary armaments for what has become an endless cycle of war. Layered on that is corporate raiding of the national treasury which uses Congress to transfer money from the people to corporate welfare programs for those who pay for their campaigns.

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Meanwhile, our institutions of higher learning have not been slouches at getting their cut of the economic joyride. They have lived large on the student loan gravy train since the program was implemented. After all, these are intelligent people They know a golden goose when they get one.

I’ve served on a board of regents in my time. I was the truculent one who voted against fee increases. Then, when I was a legislator, I was the unpopular one who voted against allowing the state schools to set their own tuition with no legislative oversight.

I’d heard all the arguments.

“Vote for the fee increase. No one will be denied an education. They can get loans.

Or,

“Vote to let the schools set their own tuition without legislative oversight. It won’t stop anyone from going to school. They can get loans.

But, for the simple reason that I could add, I knew that there was a day coming when the costs would outpace the rewards for students. We passed that day a while back. I also knew that the job requirements were getting stupid.

Nobody needs a college degree to be a cop or a firefighter or a lineman for the local electric company. Those jobs were held for decades by people without college degrees and they did them very well. A college degree is not necessary to do most jobs. Employers are requiring the degrees because  they have so many applicants for every position that they use the degrees as a weeding out criteria.

The question that arises is whether or not this is a legitimately useful criteria. Does a college degree actually mean that a person is going to be a better employee? I doubt it.

I’m not against higher education. But I am against this endless round of cost increases tied to the argument that there’s no reason to practice good usage of resources because, after all, students can always get loans to pay for it. I am also against job requirement inflation that tacks a supposed need for a college degree onto every position.

Which brings me to the latest legislative brinksmanship in Congress. It seems that there is a plan afoot to double the interest rates on student loans. Congress, with its usual unwillingness to think of the people or the country ahead of its partisan loyalties, is fighting over what to do about it. The Republicans want to tie the interest rates on student loans to interest on the 10-year treasury note. Based on what I’ve read, I think the Democrats want to block the proposed rate hike, which, I presume, would hold the rate at its current level.

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Meanwhile, the amount of student loan debt in this country has risen from $550 billion in 2007 to a trillion today. That’s not government funny money. That’s people’s lives nailed down and unable to progress because of a burden of overwhelming debt.

So far as I’m concerned, we need to look at two things: The inflationary cycle in the cost of a college education, and the inflationary cycle in downright stupid job requirements.

You don’t need to be an engineer to change a lightbulb. Somebody needs to remember that.

From the Wall Street Journal

Student loan debt has nearly doubled in the past five years, according to a congressional report released Tuesday, less than two weeks before interest rates on federally backed student loans are set to jump to 6.8% from 3.4%.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat who is the vice chair of the congressional Joint Economic Committee, released the report and said it underscores the need for “immediate action” to block the rate hike scheduled for July 1.

With little time to head off that hike, however, a bill has yet to clear the Senate. A pair of competing bills failed test votes earlier this month. The House in May passed a bill basing interest rates on the 10-year Treasury note.

The report highlights the burden of debt on students now. Debt has increased from $550 billion in the fourth quarter of 2007 to just under $1 trillion in the first quarter of 2013, it says. (Read the rest here.)

 

 

Pew Research: Media Coverage Biased 5 to 1 in Favor of Gay Marriage

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It’s official. A new Pew Research study indicates that media coverage of the gay marriage debate is strongly biased in favor of gay marriage.

That’s in case you were wondering.

Was anybody wondering?

Personally, I think this falls into the “new study indicates that nuts roll downhill” kind of news. The study is based on coverage of the period a few weeks ago when the Supreme Court was hearing arguments on the issue of gay marriage. It turns out that news coverage, including that from Fox News, was 5 to 1 in favor of gay marriage.

Of course, the study is somewhat misrepresentative of the actual media bias in favor of gay marriage, since the media typically tries to paint a gloss of balance on their social-issue propaganda when they’re reporting big stories like Supreme Court hearings. I think day to day reporting is probably much worse.

Also, when you consider the total sell job that we get from outlets such as HBO — which also hard-sells euthanasia, abortion and polygamy, among other other things — it begins to look like 5 to 1 is actually a low number.

The people of this country, indeed, the people of the world, are being pushed, propagandized and often bullied into accepting destructive social changes. Gay marriage is one of those changes. At the same time, there is an almost equal attack on faith, particularly Christian faith.

From the National Catholic Register:

Daily News

Pew Reports Media Bias on Marriage Debate (1913)

As the U.S. Supreme Court weighed DOMA and Proposition 8, news stories favored same-sex ‘marriage’ 5-1.

 06/17/2013 Comment

WASHINGTON — The Pew Research Center released a report on June 17 that confirmed overwhelming media bias in favor of same-sex “marriage.”

Researchers evaluated news and opinion coverage of oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court and related stories dealing with two landmark marriage cases and found that all mainstream media outlets favored “marriage equality,” including Fox News.

Pew reported that stories “with more statements supporting same-sex marriage outweighed those with more statements opposing it by a margin of roughly 5-to-1.”

This skewed treatment, researchers concluded, conveyed “a strong sense of momentum towards legalizing same-sex ‘marriage.’”

Now, as the nation awaits the high court’s rulings on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8, which are expected by the end of June, the unbalanced news coverage will likely prompt intense scrutiny and debate on the media’s role in affecting the outcome of those cases.

Some constitutional scholars have predicted that the justices, mindful of the ongoing debate over Roe v. Wade, would be cautious about legalizing a social practice that lacked broad public support.

But if news stories indeed conveyed a sense of “momentum,” the high court’s deliberations might accommodate that shift.

“I have to think the justices — and especially the chief — are very cognizant of the shifting public opinion,” Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, told The Hill in mid-May, during the period that Pew researchers charted the flow of coverage favoring one side of the issue.

 

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/pew-reports-media-bias-on-marriage-debate?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-06-18%2002:11:01#ixzz2Was206vD

 

MayFeelings: There is Nothing More Human than Prayer

This is from the wonderful website MayFeelings.com. 

This particular prayer marathon was on May 17. But I don’t see why we can’t join in June. After all, God’s time allows all things.

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Simcha Fisher is Coming to Patheos! Woo-Hoo!

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The two best things about writing at Patheos are the incredible readers I’ve met and the equally incredible fellow bloggers I’ve come to know.

The Catholic Portal is chock full of witty, intellectual, thoughtful writers who awe me every day with their faithfulness to the faith, their kindness to one another and their overall awesomeness as writers.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, here comes Simcha Fisher. I have a friend who’s kind of like Simcha: 9 great kids, happy life, does it all and does it well. Not that either one of them would say such a thing.

Simcha’s blog is replete with stories of her humanness, and her strength, entertwined around one another to make for a delightful mix of who I’d like to be and who I really like. I am so glad she’s decided to hang her hat here at Patheos.

I have a feeling that once you’ve read her work, you will be too.

Welcome aboard the good ship Patheos Simcha! I am so glad you’re here.

Check out Simcha’s blog, I Have to Sit Down.

 

Sexual Morality is for Homosexuals … and Everyone Else

Patheos blogger Eve Tushnet wrote an excellent article about being gay and Catholic a while back. I think it provides food for thought for all of us since the truths she discusses apply equally to every person, gay or straight. Here is what she had to say:

The biggest reason I don’t just de-pope myself is that I fell in love with the Catholic Church. Very few people just “believe in God” in an abstract way; we convert, or stay Christian, within a particular church and tradition. I didn’t switch from atheistic post-Judaism to “belief in God,” but to Catholicism: the Incarnation and the Crucifixion, Michelangelo and Wilde, St. Francis and Dorothy Day. I loved the Church’s beauty and sensual glamour. I loved her insistence that seemingly irreconcilable needs could both be met in God’s overwhelming love: justice and mercy, reason and mystery, a savior who is fully God and also fully human. I even loved her tabloid, gutter-punching side, the way Catholics tend to mix ourselves up in politics and art and pop culture. (I love that side a little less now, but it’s necessary.)

I didn’t expect to understand every element of the faith. It is a lot bigger than I am. I’m sure there are psychological reasons for my desire to find a God and a Church I could trust entirely: I don’t think I have a particularly steady moral compass, for example. I’m better at falling in love than finding my way, more attuned to eros than to ethics. Faith is no escape from the need for personal moral judgment; the Church is meant to form your conscience, not supersede it. There are many things which, if the Catholic Church commanded them, I think would have prevented me from becoming Catholic. (More on this below.) But I do think it was okay to enter the Church without being able to justify all of her teachings on my own.

At the time of my baptism the church’s teaching on homosexuality was one of the ones I understood the least. I thoroughly embarrassed myself in a conversation with one of my relatives, who tried to figure out why I was joining this repressive religion. I tried to explain something about how God could give infertile heterosexual couples a baby if He wanted to, and my relative, unsurprisingly, asked why He couldn’t give a gay couple a baby. The true answer was that I didn’t understand the teaching, but had agreed to accept it as the cost of being Catholic. To receive the Eucharist I had to sign on the dotted line (they make you say, “I believe all that the Catholic Church believes and teaches” when they bring you into the fold), and I longed intensely for the Eucharist, so I figured, everybody has to sacrifice something. God doesn’t promise that He’ll only ask you for the sacrifices you agree with and understand.

At the moment I do think I understand the Church’s teaching better than I did then—but check back with me in a few years. Right now, the Biblical witness seems pretty clear. Both opposite-sex and same-sex love are used, in the Bible, as images of God’s love. The opposite-sex love is found in marriage—sexually exclusive marriage, an image which recurs not only in the Song of Songs but in the prophets and in the New Testament—and the same-sex love is friendship. Both of these forms of love are considered real and beautiful; neither is better than the other. But they’re not interchangeable. (Read the rest here.)

What’s It Like Being a Dad?

What’s it like being a dad?

It’s like life.

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Fathers and Daughters

Which is your favorite?

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Fatherhood Means Being There When They Need You

I always knew that nothing I could do would ever make my Daddy love me more or less. I always knew that he would always be there for me, no matter what I did or didn’t do. Children need this from their fathers. Those who do not have it are touched with frost all their lives.

Men, nothing you do in your lives matters as much as taking care of your children. No matter what.

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My Father’s Keeper

This is for those of you who have the blessing of caring for your elderly fathers. They are not a burden. They are a blessing.

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Sued by Government for Refusing to Provide Flowers for Gay Wedding, Elderly Florist Files Countersuit

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Arlene’s Flower and Gifts.  Is it the only place to buy flower in Washington? 

Bob Ferguson, Washington state’s attorney general, probably thought he was picking an easy fight when he took on 68 year old Barronelle Stutzman. After all, she not only had gray hair, she was a small business owner with very few resources to defend herself against the government. 

It probably looked like an easy way to earn kudos from the my-way-or-the-highway crowd that seems to be running parts of our government these days. Ms Stutzman, who has a history of employing self-identified homosexuals, as well as serving them, evidently draws the line when it comes to providing flowers for gay weddings.

I think I see where she’s coming from. Selling flowers to gay customers or employing gay people are both well within Christian behavior. In fact, treating gay people like people is pretty much a requirement of following Jesus. Providing flowers for a gay wedding, on the other hand, would have put Ms Stutzman in the position of actively participating in something that just about all traditional Christians regard as sinful. It is a violation of what Jesus intended for marriage to be, and, many people believe, will do great harm to the already damaged institution of marriage. 

To use an analogy, if someone who was getting ready to rob bank came into your store and wanted to buy a carton of milk for their lunch, selling them the milk would not make you part of their bank robbing. However, if they asked you to sell them a bag for the money, and they told you it would be used in a bank robbery, you would be part of the crime. 

I am not equating bank robbery with gay marriage. They are entirely different. I just used that as an illustration. 

The point here is that to compel someone to participate in an action that they regard as sinful is a violation of their human dignity and their right as human beings and American citizens to decide these things for themselves. Even if bank robbery was legal, if a store owner still believes that theft is a sin, they should have the right to refuse to sell the erstwhile robber the bag for the loot.

Ms Stutzman’s problems began on March 1, when Robert Ingersoll, who had known Ms Stutzman for 10 years, asked her to sell him flowers for his “wedding” to Curt Freed. Here’s Ms Stutzman’s description of what happened:

“He said he decided to get married, and before he got through I grabbed his hand and said, ‘I am sorry. I can’t do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ,’” Stutzman said. “He thanked me and said he respected my opinion. We talked and gave each other a hug and he left.” She said it was the only wedding she had declined in 37 years.

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Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson

Attorney General Ferguson must not have too many serious crimes to deal with up there in Washington State because he immediately saddled up his white horse and rode out to hammer down on Ms Stutzman. He is using a consumer protection act to seek a $2,000 fine against Ms Stutzman, along with a permanent injunction which would force her to either sell flowers for gay weddings or to stop selling flowers for wedding ceremonies altogether. I do not know what jurisdiction passed the act the AG is using. 

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Barronelle Stutzman

The only legitimate reason I can see for the chief law enforcement officer in Washington state to take such an extreme interest in this incident is that Ms Stutzman’s shop, Arlene’s Flower and Gifts, must be the only place in Washington state where those poor people who live there can buy flowers. That’s kind of sad, when you think about it.

However, Ms Stutzman hasn’t rolled over. She has filed a countersuit through the Alliance Defending Freedom. Her lawsuit is based on federal constitutional protections of religious freedom and protections in the Washington State Constitution.  

According to American’s Defending Freedom:

ADF explains that the state’s lawsuit “is attempting to force Stutzman to act contrary to her religious convictions in violation of her constitutional freedoms.”

“In America, the government is supposed to protect freedom, not use its intolerance for certain viewpoints to intimidate citizens into acting contrary to their faith convictions,” said ADF senior legal counsel Dale Schowengerdt. “Family business owners are constitutionally guaranteed the freedom to live and work according to their beliefs.”

He added, “It is this very freedom that gives America its cherished diversity and protects citizens from state-mandated conformity.”

In additional to federal constitutional protections, the Washington State Constitution also protects “freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment, belief, and worship,” as stated in Article 1, Section 11.

Stutzman has set up a fund for her defense. Donations can be sent to:

Key Bank
1275 Lee Blvd
Richland, WA 99352
509-392-4638
Attn: Lindsey

Wasting Your Life and Unnecessary Funerals

Funeral

I don’t like going to unnecessary funerals.

You know the kind of funeral I mean. I’m talking about going to a funeral where the person who has died managed to kill themselves from overeating, undereating, drug abuse, alcoholism, or refusing to seek medical care.

Unnecessary funerals for people who threw their lives away are a drag.

However — and here’s the truth of it — each and every one of us makes choices each and every day that waste pieces of our lives.

How do we waste our lives? Here are a few examples I’ve seen, as well as a few examples I’ve practiced.

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1. Nursing resentments over our childhood.

Freud taught our whole Western world that childhood is a minefield of damaging little bombs that our parents usher us through as they lead us to adulthood.

In Freud’s misogynist view of things, our mothers are the cause of just about every problem we will ever have. Most of what Freud thought has turned out to be tripe. In this case, it was sexist tripe. However, we have latched onto the notion that childhood is a time for us to re-visit ad nauseam  throughout our lives and that we can blame anything we do or don’t do in the span of our days on those musty memories of our littlest years.

Done this way, childhood is the ultimate cop-out. It is also the ultimate life-waster. I know people in their sixties who manage to turn every conversation back to the supposed wrongs of their childhoods. These are miserable, unproductive, resentful people that nobody who has anything going on wants to be around. Don’t waste your life like this.

Office work 2. Nursing resentments over things that happen on your job.

Making a living is a hard deal. We talk all the time in our society about “loving” our work. Well, I’m here to burst your bubble and tell you that even if you have managed to find some sort of work that is challenging, interesting and significant (lucky you, by the way) you are still going to find out that it’s also competitive, (and not always in a good way) ruthless, unforgiving and downright mean.

Making a living is hard.

For most people, who don’t have jobs that are challenging, interesting and significant, it can also be drudgery. However, bringing all this home and letting it inhabit all the rest of your time is a good way to waste your life.

Leave your job at your job. On the days you can’t do that — and we all have them — when the misery of your job crawls all over you and you can’t leave it there, remember that your family is support, not your enemy, and your home is your refuge. Don’t misplace your anger over your work onto the few people who truly love you.

Once you get past those total downer days, leave it there and go on. Earning a living is tough. Accept that and stop wasting your life on the fantasy that you are cursed because you have to earn a living and it’s not always fun. That fantasy leads to life-wasting resentment that can destroy your family and drain your days of happiness. Making a living is hard. Get over it.

Bucking bronc 3.  Nursing resentments about your failures.

My Grandfather told me once, “There is always some guy out there who can whip you in a fight. There’s always a horse that can throw you. That’s just the way it is.” What he meant is that if you get out there and mix it up with the world, the world is going to knock you flat from time to time.

You can waste your life running and hiding from every challenge. You can hide inside your house and not come out, or you can hide in the slow suicide of drugs and alcohol. But if you chose to live out in the world and walk free, you are going to get knocked down from time to time. Sometimes you eat the bear. Other times, the bear eats you.

Again, I know people who make their lives utterly miserable by picking at every failure until they turn it into a festering boil. They never admit that the failure was at least partly due to their own mistakes. They wouldn’t consider looking at it honestly and determining what they can change to not get knocked down in the future. No. They blame everyone and everything, often indulging in what are flat-out fantasies of supposed wrongs in order to keep from acknowledging the simple fact that this time the bear ate them.

Not only do they waste what could be a valuable learning experience that will help them figure out how to overcome these obstacles in the future, they waste the only thing they truly have. They waste their lives.

I’m going to stop with these three life-wasters. Three is enough for now. However there a many others. Notice that all these focus on one thing: Nursing and nurturing resentment over the inevitable vicissitudes of life.

If somebody told you that you will get through this life without having your parents make mistakes in how they raised you, without the drudgery of work, without humiliating defeats and embarrassing goofs, they were either deluded or they were lying to you.

Life is beautiful. It is wonderful. It is worth every single bit of drudgery and pain, failure and betrayal we encounter as we live through it.

But it is not painless. That is not a bad thing. The tough times often turn out, in retrospect, to be the most productive times. You just have to learn from them. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn what not to do and how to do it better the next time.

Life may be hard at times. It is hard at times. But it is always worth the struggle. Because the good times outnumber the bad, and because this brief life is a preparation for the eternal life on the other side of it.

Don’t waste this life God has given you on the three resentments I named.

Once childhood is done, live your life and love your parents. Forget about the rest.

Remember that work, even if it seems meaningless and filled with back-stabbing nonsense, is still an honorable activity that provides the stuff of our physical existence: food, clothing and shelter. If you are supporting a family, then your work has the immense dignity of homemaking and family making. Do not let resentment over work poison your whole life and destroy your relationships with the very people you are working to support.

When — not if, but when — you get knocked flat, go ahead and cry about it. Cry your little eyes out. Punch out a couple of walls. What you should not do is indulge in blaming everything and everyone else and building up resentments. I’m sure there are people you can point to who let you down, betrayed you, or just walked away from you when you were in need. It’s ok to be mad at them. But it’s not ok to make them the center of your life or of your analysis of what happened that led to your defeat. If you trusted the wrong person, you trusted the wrong person. Been there. Done that. Lots of times.

What you should do is take some time to grieve, making sure the time you give is commensurate with the loss. Two weeks of wailing and moaning is not enough time for a major flop, but it is excessive for a bad grade on a test. Then, straighten yourself out, sit down and figure out what you could have done to get a different result. Think it through with a mind to not make the same mistakes again. Then, get back out there and rejoin the fight.

I don’t like unnecessary funerals. I also don’t like being around people who are constantly angry and miserable about ordinary things that happened five, ten, even thirty years ago. I’m not talking about massive traumas. Those things usually need professional help to heal. I’m talking about the pits and scars of everyday life that happen to every single one of us.

Don’t waste your life using resentment to avoid reality. The reality is that your parents did their best, making a living is hard and everybody gets knocked flat from time to time. These things are not the meaning of your life. They are opportunities for growth. Overcoming them to lead a full, productive life that is filled with love is the challenge and the opportunity of living that everyone faces. Not just you, everyone.

Christian Persecution: 6 Quick Picks

This week’s 6 Quick Picks on Christian persecution deal with atrocities that have occurred in Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

All of them involve violent mob action from members of other religious groups. None of them would have occurred without the compliance of the police. Most of the time, the police arrest the Christians who have been attacked rather than their attackers. This, of course, is police corruption, as well as mob violence.

Most of these crimes occurred in countries which have legal guarantees of freedom of religion. Our Constitutional guarantee that the government may not interfere with “the free exercise” of religious faith is a precious freedom that Americans have had for so long that we take it for granted.

But freedoms can never be taken for granted if they are to be preserved. There are always those who will try to limit other people’s freedoms.

Here are this week’s 6 Quick Picks.

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1. Islamic Hard-liners, Police Raid Christian-Muslim Interfaith Conference in Indonesia

By Amir Tedjo on 4:52 pm June 12, 2013.

Surabaya. A small group of religious hard-liners, backed up by police, disrupted a Christian-Muslim Interfaith dialogue on Tuesday night, claiming that the event was conducted without a permit.

They forced the organizers to go to the Surabaya Police station to be questioned.

“The weird thing is that the police officers who were present stayed quiet, regardless of what the group did,” Ahmad Zaimul Hamdi, a committee member and activist with the Anti-Violence Society Network, said on Wednesday.

“The police even provided a vehicle to bring the organizers to the police station.”

Ahmad said that the event was part of an academic discussion that analyzed the Koran and the Bible from both Islamic and Christian perspectives. Hundreds of people attended the event, and the discussion was going smoothly until the small group of hard-liners arrived on the scene.

From Jakarta Globe http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/news/hard-liners-police-interfere-with-interfaith-dialogue/

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2. Mob of “Hundreds of Muslims” Attack Christians in Bangladesh

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Perpetrators Operate With Impunity as Government Fails to Protect Religious Minorities

6/14/2013 Washington, D.C. (ICC)-International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that a group of radical Islamists have targeted and attacked Christians in Bangladesh. Two incidents in the last week have left priests and seminary students among those severely beaten. In both incidents the attackers have operated with impunity.

On June 5, Muslim extremists went to the Tumilia mission, a Catholic compound, and physically harmed Fr. Abel when he came out of his room.

On June 6, another attack by the same group of radical Islamists an attack on the entire village.

Two of the Christians fled and sought shelter at the Catholic Church’s mission compound in Dinajpur, in Northern Bangladesh. However, a mob of Muslims numbering over a hundred stormed in armed with local weapons. “They broke the main gate, destroyed the barb wire fence and entered the compound. They beat up Fr. Uzzal, and seminarians and destroyed parts of the buildings…vandalized and looted everything,” says an ICC source.

“The police arrested some of the Christians and took them to the police station but did not take any action against the Muslims who were trespassing on the Catholic Compound,” the ICC source continued. “The Muslims wait for any excuse to attack the religious minorities.”

Not one perpetrator has been arrested in either of these cases.

“The priests are afraid to do anything against the perpetrators,” says an ICC source. “Most of the time the Muslim extremists are protected by the [Muslim] ruling party. This is Bangladesh, where we [Christians] live without any security and protection from the government or law enforcing agencies,” the source continued.

Corey Bailey, ICC’s Regional Manager for Bangladesh says, “According to their Constitution, there is Religious Freedom in Bangladesh, but that exists only on paper. Muslims attack religious minorities with impunity. This is outrageous and must end.

I urge those interested in religious freedom to contact the Embassy of Bangladesh and demand better protection for religious minorities, as well as justice in these cases.”

Ambassador: H.E. Akramul Qader    202-244-2745   or 202-244-0183 (PABX)

For interviews, contact Corey Bailey: RM-Asia@persecution.org

You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference ICC (International Christian Concern) and include our web address, www.persecution.org. ICC is a Washington-DC based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church.   For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.

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3. Hindu Militants Attack Christian Pastors in India

By BosNewsLife Asia Service

NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– Twenty Baptist pastors have been attacked by suspected Hindu militants in southeastern India and several church leaders required hospital treatment for severe injuries, representatives said Friday, June 7.

The All India Christian Council (AICC), which represents churches and mission groups, said the victims were from the Telugu Baptist Church who gathered for their monthly prayer meeting Tuesday, June 4, in the town of Maheshwaram Mandal, in the Indian state of Hyderabad.

About 50 followers of Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or ‘National Volunteer Organization’ (RSS) stormed the gathering and “brutally attacked” the pastors “with sticks and rods causing dreadful injuries” and verbally abused them, AICC added in a statement seen by BosNewsLife.

Seven of the pastors, identified only as Thimothy, Kumar, Krupaiah, Roberts, Rosaiah, Lazarus and Thinothy, were rushed to hospital for serious injuries, according to AICC officials.

The attack is part of a wider crackdown on devoted Christians in the heavily Hindu nation, said John Dayal, AICC secretary general.

“We are deeply concerned that anti-Christian attacks are taking place in the state. After Karnataka [state] such violence against Christians has started in Andhra Pradesh,” Dayal added.

He said police had been asked to investigate the case. About 1,000 local Christians were also planning a peaceful rally to protest against the attack and demand justice, according to AICC investigators.

From BosNewsLife http://www.bosnewslife.com/28646-india-militants-attack-baptist-pastors-several-injured

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4. Third Christian Community in 50 Days Attacked by Muslims in Pakistan

Country/Region: South and East Asia, Pakistan

Christians in a village in Punjab, Pakistan were forced to evacuate their homes after they were attacked by armed Muslims who threatened to destroy their property; theirs is the third Christian community to come under attack in less than two months.

A mob of around 50-60 armed Muslims attacked Christians in Eassa Pur village, Khanewal district, on 26 April. The furious assailants opened fire on the believers after beating them and throwing stones at their houses, which they also threatened to torch.

Christian communities in nearby villages were also forced to flee their homes after receiving threats against their property.

Police have registered against a case against five Christians following the violence, but they have not pursued legal action against the Muslims who instigated it.

Muslims in the village had also threatened to burn down Christian property during a previous attack on 6 April. A group of Muslims beat local Christians severely when a dispute broke out because two Christian men were sitting on mats that were not facing towards Mecca.

Some local Christians believe that Muslims are using any excuse to create hostilities in order to take over Christian property.

Outbreaks of violence against entire Christian communities in response to personal disputes are becoming disturbingly frequent; this attack is the third of its kind in recent months.

In Joseph Colony, Lahore, a Muslim mob torched 178 Christian homes on 9 March after a local Christian was accused of blasphemy following an exchange with a Muslim friend.

Then, on 3 April, Muslim extremists attacked a Christian neighbourhood in Francis Colony, Gujranwala, following a minor dispute between Muslim and Christian youths. A church building was ransacked and dozens of shops and vehicles vandalised after Muslims were incited over mosque loudspeakers to “teach the Christians a lesson”.

http://barnabasfund.org/UK/News/Archives/Third-Christian-community-in-50-days-attacked-by-Muslims-in-Pakistan.html

From Barnabas Fund http://barnabasfund.org/UK/News/Archives/Third-Christian-community-in-50-days-attacked-by-Muslims-in-Pakistan.html

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5. Churches Closed and Pastors Threatened by Buddhist Monks in Sri Lanka 

Country/Region: Sri Lanka, South and East Asia

Buddhist monks have forced the closure of 18 churches in southern Sri Lanka, threatening pastors with death if they continue their activities.

Churches in Hambanthota have been under pressure for some time, but tensions have ratcheted up this month.

On 10 May, the district secretary of Hambanthota called a meeting of local officials, senior police officers and Buddhist and Christian leaders to discuss the situation. The legality of the local churches was questioned, and various accusations were levelled at the pastors by the Buddhist monks.

The Christian leaders were effectively told that they had to provide proof of the legality of their churches or else they would be closed down.

A follow-up meeting was held on 17 May at which the Buddhist monks said they had already closed down a number of churches – later confirmed as 18 by local pastors – and demanded that those still functioning also be shut.

The church leaders explained that, under Sri Lankan law, they have the right to practise their religion anywhere and that church registration is not required.

The authorities decided not to take any action against the churches at this stage, but a further meeting will take place in three months’ time.

The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka said that the situation in the south remains tense. Local pastors told Barnabas Fund that the Buddhist monks have threatened them: “If you don’t stop your activities your destiny will be like Lional Jayasinghe”, a pastor who was martyred in Hambanthota in the 1990s.

BUDDHIST PROTEST

Meanwhile, Buddhist monk Bowatte Indarathana set himself on fire as a protest against the conversion of Buddhists by Christians and other minority groups, and also the slaughter of cattle, in Sri Lanka. The incident happened on Friday (24 May); he succumbed to his injuries the following day.

Supporters of Sinhala Ravaya, a Buddhist Sinhalese extremist group, praised Indarathana’s “heroic act” in defence of the nation’s values, while Udaya Gammanpila, a member of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) party, promised to “transform his demands into reality” through a new law.

Christians in Sri Lanka are under pressure from the Sinhalese Buddhist lobby, which campaigns for laws to control religious conversions.

The government claims to uphold religious freedom but affords Buddhism the “foremost place”; around 70% of the population is Buddhist. The Religious Affairs Ministry recently announced that it intends to introduce legislation enabling the authorities to take action against religious groups that are deemed cults. This could threaten the country’s Evangelical churches, which are not recognised by the Religious Affairs Ministry.

From Barnabas Fund 

http://barnabasfund.org/UK/News/News-analysis/Churches-closed-and-pastors-threatened-by-Buddhist-monks-in-Sri-Lanka.html

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6. More Attacks on Pastors in Tanzania

VOM_MediaDev

June 13, 2013

Earlier this week, we shared a video report from Gary Lane in Tanzania that included the story of Pastor Mathayo Kachili, who was killed because of his faith in Christ. Pastor Kachili’s story is also included in VOM’s June newsletter.

The persecution of Christians in Tanzania continues. On the night of Sunday, June 2, the home of Pastor Robert Ngai in Geita town, northeastern Tanzania, was attacked by a large group of radical Muslims. The attackers broke into the home and attacked Pastor Ngai with machetes. The pastor received serious cuts on his hands and arms when he raised his arms to protect his head from the blows. Doctors at the local hospital said the injuries were beyond their ability to treat, and urged that he be rushed to a hospital in a nearby, larger city for treatment. Ngai is the pastor of the Evangelical Assemblies of God Church. At last word from VOM contacts, he was still in ICU.

Two nights before the attack on Pastor Ngai, the home of Pastor Daudi Nzumbi in Geita also came under attack. Pastor Nzumbi leads the Free Pentecostal Church of Tanzania (FPCT) congregation in Geita. Thankfully, the attackers fled after they were confronted by Pastor Nzumbi’s large, barking dogs.

When Pastor Nzumbi heard his dogs barking, he looked out the window and saw the attackers. He called the police, but the officer in charge told him, “I cannot protect every pastor!”

VOM contacts are working to get more details on these attacks, and to offer encouragement and assistance to these two pastors and other Christians in Tanzania affected by violent Islamic attacks. Please continue to pray for Christians in Tanzania as well as for their persecutors.

From Persecution Blog

http://www.persecutionblog.com/2013/06/more-attacks-on-pastors-in-tanzania.html

Abortion on Demand After the 5th Month: Should It Be Legal?

26weeks

Rumors have it that the United States House of Representatives will vote on a bill that will extend the District of Columbia ban on abortions after 20 weeks to the rest of the country.

The bill passed out of House committee this week, and, according to some sources, is being marked up for a vote that may take place next week. I doubt that this bill will pass in the Senate, and it certainly will be vetoed by the President if it does. There is no chance the bill’s authors can convince both houses to override a Presidential veto.

Veto override

On top of that, Roe v Wade specifically set the limit for abortion on demand (with some regulations) at 26 weeks of pregnancy. Unless the Court changes that ruling, the bill is unconstitutional.

So, what is happening here?

I do not see any reason for late-term abortions. I’ve written about that here. However, I always wonder about the real reason for a vote like this, since it is definitely not to make a law and everyone involved knows it.

Do the bill’s authors view the vote as a statement designed to build consensus over time? Are they throwing down the political gauntlet and forcing people to declare where they stand on this issue by how they cast their votes? Do they want to use it as a way of defining an issue for upcoming political campaigns? Or is this some combination of all these things?

I would guess that almost any member of the United States Congress could take a roll sheet of either the Senate or the House and pinpoint with amazing accuracy how each member will vote on this. I imagine they could have pinpointed it at any time during this session. I’ll go a step further and say that they could probably predict what everyone who speaks on the issue will say.

So they’re not trying to convince one another. This is about something else.

Roe v wade ny times

If they had a chance of passing this into law, it would be a powerful thing, indeed. It would force the Supreme Court to either rule against it or let it stand. That could be great, or, if they uphold it, it could make the situation worse; potentially much worse. Everything you do in when you’re in public office can go great or turn sour. In issues with generational punch and Court oversight like this one, strategy is everything.

The reason I’m raising these questions is that I want you to peel back the layers of propaganda and think about what is really happening with your government. I want you to look at the legislative process with understanding. If Christians are to affect change in the world, we need to do more than watch the game and cheer for our side. We need to be able to see through the game.

Thinking1

So, give a thought or two about this bill to limit abortions and tell me what you think they’re doing. Do you think it has any chance to succeed legislatively? Do you think that one of the many similar laws that have passed in the various states will wend its way through the appeals process and on up to the Supreme Court? Do you think there’s any chance the Supreme Court will uphold that law if it does?

These are big questions, and I can tell you, I don’t know the answers to all of them.

What do you think?

Iran: Trying to Stifle the Holy Spirit with Persecution

This story of Christian persecution has a twist.

Iranian government officials raided the Central Assemblies of God Church in Tehran May 21. They arrested the pastor, Rev Robert Aserian and seized his books, documents and equipment, including his computer.

Iran pastor 4X3

Rev Robert Aserian, Barnabas Aid Photo

The charge? Pastor Aserian had been conducting services in Farsi, which is the language that people speak in Iran.

This is akin to arresting someone in America for making speeches in English.

Why would they do this?

My guess is that the reason for trying to force the pastor and his church to conduct services in some other language than Farsi is precisely because people could understand Farsi. I think the Holy Spirit was working in that church and Iranian people were converting to Christianity. The fact that the church has discipleship classes on Saturdays for new Christians seems to indicate that there are a good number of converts.

The Assemblies of God Church in Iran began in 1955 with a single house church. Now there are congregations across the country. That sounds like people are converting, and they are doing it in significant numbers.

This has resulted in persecution of church members, especially the church leaders. For instance, Pastor Farhad Sabokrouh, who leads an Assemblies of God church in Ahwaz, Iran, along with his wife Shahaz Jeizan were recently sentence to one-year prison sentences. 

Iranian christian beaten for her faith

Iranian Christian, beaten by police. Photo by Barnabas Aid

Hundreds of Christian converts have been arrested and detained throughout Iran in the past few years. They have been subjected to intense interrogation and verbal and physical abuse. Some were prosecuted, while others have been forced to pay exorbitant sums for bail.

Several members of the Central Assemblies of God Church in Tehran have been killed, and, as a local source told Barnabas Aid:

The pressure has become unbearable. They constantly threaten the church leaders and their families with imprisonment, unexplained accidents, kidnapping and even with execution. We cannot go on like this.

The twist in this story is that it’s not about a shrinking population of Christians who are barely hanging on. It’s about a thriving and growing Christian ministry that is built on conversions. Will the Iranian government be able to stifle the Holy Spirit with persecution?

There are probably more of these stories than we know. These people need our prayers and any support we can give them.


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